Detroit Teachers: Never Mind The $617 Million, What Have You Given Us Lately?

State taxpayers delivered a big bailout in 2016, now union demands more

In 2016, Detroit Public Schools received a $617 million bailout approved by the state Legislature, wiping out the debt incurred by years of the district spending more than it took in.

Just two years later, members of the renamed system, the Detroit Public Schools Community District, were holding signs complaining that the state isn’t spending enough money on public schools.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers-Local 231 posted May 10 on Twitter a series of pictures featuring teachers holding signs that said what they would be able to do if the government “funded Michigan schools.”

Some of the signs said teachers could have smaller classes and clean and safe buildings.

The average class size in the district this school year is 21.59 students. The median class size is a bit higher at 24 students per classroom. In addition to the overspending debt covered by the bailout, the district received a financial boost when, in November 2009, local residents approved a property tax increase to pay for $500.5 million in new debt for building improvements.

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And according to the Michigan Department of Education, operations at Detroit Public Schools Community District are among the best-funded in the state.

The Detroit public school district received $14,754 per pupil in local, state and federal funds for its general fund in 2016-17, the most recent year for which data is available. That was nearly $5,000 per pupil above the state average of $9,910.

As candidates to be Michigan’s next governor begin campaigning in earnest, the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan has started its own campaign — to claim that Michigan taxpayers are insufficiently funding their school districts.

It’s not just Detroit’s public school district that is receiving more money.

One Detroit Federation Teachers union member held up a sign that read:

I could have smaller class sizes!
I LIVE IN Redford”

That would be the Redford Union School District, where the local union belongs to the Michigan Education Association.

The AFT-Michigan union member holding up a sign that states he lives in Redford should know that his school district is receiving $5 million more in state funds than it did in 2010-11, despite having 84 fewer students.

Redford Union School District received $7,249 per pupil in state funding in 2010-11 (not including local or federal money). That translates into $8,214 per pupil if measured in 2018 dollars.

In the current school year, Redford Union will receive $9,075 in state funding for each student. That’s an $861 per-pupil increase over 2010-11 when inflation is factored in.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer made school funding one of his top campaign themes in 2014, and it backfired when his claims of school budget cuts were widely debunked in the media and elsewhere.

Related Articles:

Putting School Funding Inequity in Perspective

New Video Series Looks Underneath the Hood at How School Funding Works

Mackinac Center Publishes New Report to Simplify Complexities of Education Funding

Another Michigan School Expert Misstates, Lowballs Taxpayer Contributions

Mackinac Center Weighs in on State’s Education Adequacy Study

State Aid To School District Much More Than Newspaper Claims

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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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